Redskins

Senior Bowl quarterbacks ready for NFL audition

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Senior Bowl quarterbacks ready for NFL audition

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Quarterbacks at all-star games have tough assignments.

The six Senor Bowl signal callers will be playing off cliff notes of a new offense, throwing to unfamiliar receivers and taking snaps from a new center in Saturday's NFL showcase. And they'll all do it from under center, not the shotgun for those more accustomed to the spread in college.

All the while with dozens of scouts, coaches and NFL execs studying their every move on and off the field. Not that anyone is complaining considering the potential rewards.

``It's a job interview so you've got to be ready to go when it's time to go,'' Syracuse's Ryan Nassib he said.

That could mean a lot of money for those who deftly manage the tasks. The game might be the most relaxing part of the weeklong job fair.

West Virginia's Geno Smith, widely considered the top quarterback prospect, skipped the Senior Bowl.

That left Nassib, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon and Zac Dysert of Miami, Ohio, as the North quarterbacks and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson on the South.

All piled up big college numbers, then had to start over on Monday.

``We're used to the first day of practice just about every ball on the ground, fumbled exchanges, all those things,'' said the Detroit Lions' Jim Schwartz, coach of the South team. ``But from the time all three of those quarterbacks stepped into the huddle on the first day they had good command and weren't botching snaps and they were making accurate throws.

``People underestimate how difficult that is when you come into an environment like this.''

The six quarterbacks bring plenty of experience to the task. They've logged an average of 10,000-plus career passing yards and 71 touchdowns led by Jones, a four-year starter who passed for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns for the Sooners.

Even with players like Smith and a host of juniors at various positions not around, the Senior Bowl has some projected first-round talent, according to mock drafts. That includes Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, Baylor receiver Terrance Williams and Brigham Young defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah.

The quarterbacks get a chance to display their arms, brains and leadership.

``I look around and there's some really talented quarterbacks here, guys that I've been hearing about all year long and watching on TV,'' said Nassib, whose team beat West Virginia and Smith in the Pinstripe Bowl said. ``It's a very competitive class. I just have to make sure I go out and play my game and try to prove myself to these teams here.''

Glennon is a strong-armed 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who is projected as a potential Top 10 pick by some. They all share similar goals for the week.

``I just want to prove that I belong in the NFL and that I can win games in the NFL,'' he said. ``I know it's hard to prove that in one week, but they have a good eye for it. I just want to prove that I can make the right throws, I can make the right decisions and execute well enough to lead an offense to victory.''

At least one Senior Bowl quarterback has been chosen in the first round of the past three drafts, including Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (22nd, Cleveland Browns) last year.

Christian Ponder and Jake Locker both made the cut two years ago and Tim Tebow was a first-rounder in 2010. It remains to be seen which quarterbacks have helped or hurt their cause this week.

``It's a big week for all of us,'' Glennon said. ``A lot of players that come here help themselves out tremendously. I think we all realize the opportunity in front of us, and that's why it's such a great event.''

Their targets include Michigan's converted quarterback Denard Robinson and Williams, the nation's leading receiver. Williams caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns - including a 17-catch, 314-yard effort on Sept. 29 against West Virginia.

That topped the performance a week earlier by Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton, who gets to team up with Wilson for another week, at least. Hamilton had 10 catches for 303 yards against Rutgers.

Meanwhile, Florida State's 6-foot-4, 237-pound Manuel impressed Schwartz with his physique.

``The thing that pops out is his size,'' said Schwartz, who also praised his accuracy. ``(Ben) Roethlisberger's a big quarterback but I think he's got nothing on Manuel. He's got super long arms. He looks like a tight end out there. He's just a really, really big man.''

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

One of the WNBA’s most dominant players is Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces. She’s unforgiving, wears her heart on her chest, and is truly one of a kind.

When the center is playing her finest basketball no one in the league can stop her. Sunday's Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals against the Washington Mystics had Cambage playing at her finest. 

Matching her season-high, Cambage waltzed to 28 points in only 27 minutes of playing time. Several Mystics took their turn at trying to slow her down. Every Mystic had a chance to help at least at double-teaming the Ace's leading scorer. Primarily it was Emma Meesseman and LaToya Sanders that drew the assignment responsibility, but everyone had a role.

It did not matter in Las Vegas. Throughout the whole contest, Cambage rolled over the interior of the Mystics defense. She scored at ease as the tallest player on either roster for the Mystics and the Aces. 

The Australian knew she could not be stopped. Postgame she analyzed why she was able to command the post so well on ESPN2’s broadcast. In the process, she put several Mystics on blast. 

“They got small forwards guarding me. If they can’t handle it, get in the weight room or get out of the post. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my thing inside,” Cambage told Kim Adams.

She’s talking about the 6-4 Meesseman, the 6-3 Sanders. But it doesn't matter whomever the Mystics put on the 6-8 Cambage, there will be a significant matchup advantage for the Aces. 

Not only does she have a clear edge in her height, but she does her build as well. Cambage possesses the ideal structure of a WNBA center. She stands at 216 pounds, 30 pounds more than either of the Mystics primary defenders on her. Sanders’ lanky frame has its advantages in the Mystics run-and-gun offense, but not what you see from a stereotypical center. Meesseman is a better matchup defensively, size-wise but she spots Cambage five inches. 

This is not an oddity though for Washington. There are a minute few in the WNBA that can walk alongside Cambage. As the third-tallest player in the league, only the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittany Griner (6-9) and the New York Liberty’s Han Xu (6-9) position higher.

Despite the clear physical dominance, Cambage is erratic at times. While she wears her emotions, those also tend to get her in trouble with her aggressive play and in dealing with officials. When frustrated, sometimes she struggles to even get a shot on rim.  

This is partly why Cambage’s play was highlighted so much in Game 3. The first two games of the series had Cambage as her own worst enemy. Visibly she was upset with some calls and non-calls by the officials. Timely fouls also limited her flow on the court. 

Neither was the case in Game 3. Fouls went her way. She even got away with a brash elbow to Meesseman’s face why trying to keep the lane clear. The non-call resulted in Mike Thibault losing his cool and getting a technical foul.

It’s also not the first time that Cambage has flailed an elbow to Meesseman. Game 2 saw her earn a technical foul for that same behavior. 

Either way, Cambage is a matchup nightmare against the Mystics. During the regular season, the Mystics – led by Sanders’ defense – kept Cambage to under 15 points in all three of their matchups. In three games in this series, the 28-year-old has 19, 23 and 28 points; progressively getting better in each game. 

Washington still holds a 2-1 lead and is a game away from returning to the WNBA Finals. However, they have to find an answer to slow down the tenacious Cambage. 

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